An Ordinary Man
Starring Ben Kingsley, Hera Hilmar, Peter Serafinowicz
Making its debut at the Austin Film Festival, Brad Silberling’s latest An Ordinary Man is yet another film spotlighted because of its male lead. While 73-year-old Sir Ben Kingsley isn’t the draw he once was, this feels like a resurgence for the Oscar winner. Silberling (Moonlight Mile, City of Angels) isn’t well regarded as a director and while his latest won’t make any box office waves or win any awards, it’s a welcome departure into darker subject matter. The real highlight here is Hera Hilmar (The Ottoman Lieutenant), who Silberling described as one of the few actresses he auditioned that wasn’t intimidated by Kingsley. Their onscreen sparing provides the film with more entertainment than the subject matter, making this a real acting vehicle if nothing else.
A war criminal known throughout the region as The General (Kingsley), has enough friends loyal to his cause, despite atrocities to keep him hidden from the international government. He moves locations often, and the most recent comes with a surprising guest, a 26-year-old maid (Hilmar). Before he can trust her, he makes her strip, and then interrogates her with questions. Her answers are satisfactory, yet puzzling, especially the part about losing both parents in a car accident. He continues to push the boundaries of his seclusion, as they go out dancing, visiting her home and even returning to his homeland. What he can’t understand is her ambivalence to his crimes, “most reporters would cut off their testicle to interview me, but you…,”.
In the end, An Ordinary Man doesn’t make any sort of mark on cinema for the 2017 year because it doesn’t go deep enough into any particular theme.
“I’m everywhere and nowhere. I’m a myth,” The General says. While his crimes are never detailed, the script drops clues throughout the film that this is a very bad man. Which put the audience in a conundrum as we begin to leech onto this man’s energy and stamina, it’s one of the few elements keeping the film interesting and moving forward. Kingsley has long specialized in portraying characters who are morally ambiguous. He’s having some fun here as both a tyrant and a paternal mentor. The script turns on a dime about midway through, and without spoilers, there are clues to this reveal if you know where to look.
While much of the film is discovery and dialogue, there are a few moments where Silberling tries to change the atmosphere with artificial suspense. The overall message of the film isn’t clear, and the running time of 90 minutes seems elongated due to the dialogue, yet too short to really give these characters room to expand. In the end, An Ordinary Man doesn’t make any sort of mark on cinema for the 2017 year because it doesn’t go deep enough into any particular theme. As far as war criminal films go, it’s not a provocative, bone chilling or altogether authentic cinematic experience and will likely be forgotten before the ink on the reviews dry.
Even good performances from Kingsley & Hilmar only keep this film momentarily interesting.